Feeling organized doesn't have to be complicated or take tons of time out of your day. In this post I'm sharing 6 simple and easy ways to get your life in order that you can start today!
When you think of the word “clutter” what comes to mind? Usually it’s that messy pile that keeps growing on that armchair no one ever sits in or the counter space that never seems to be clear. Where we put stuff attracts more stuff.
But when was the last time you stopped to think about how digital clutter effects your everyday life? Not only the files that reside on your computer / phone / device but also the distractions that prevent you from being productive during the day or the things that steal your attention in microseconds that add up to pretty big chunks of time.
Digital clutter causes a few main issues:
- It makes it hard to focus, think notifications, endless desktop icons, having to scroll through endless folders
- It makes us feel overwhelmed. It’s a lot like walking into the kitchen when there’s a clear countertop vs. piles of junk mail. Our minds react to our environment. When there are tons of files, photos, or apps in front of our face, it’s natural to feel a slight stress response
- It prevents productivity. Ever heard of shiny object syndrome?
- It stifles our attempts at time management
One of the first ways to start being more mindful of how you keep your digital and online space is to build your awareness around what these types of clutter are so you can call them out when they take over.
1) Files and photos without a home
::sadface:: Everything just wants a place to belong and no one likes being stuck in the Desktop graveyard. I am so guilty of saving anything and everything to my desktop when I’m in a rush or working on a project. What ends up happening (besides my computer crawling to a halt) is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find what I saved on my desktop in the first place — which was the EXACT reason why I saved it there, BECAUSE it was empty, ugh.
When we get in the habit of mindlessly saving things to the desktop, the pile grows, and then it’s hard to remember what happened. How did it get like this?! Saving things to your desktop can accumulate quickly and when the overwhelm hits you may find yourself deleting things without checking (I’ve deleted important files this way) or throwing them all into a rando folder (also on the desktop) that only comes back to haunt you later.
A few tips to end the madness:
- Save quick files to a delete folder. This is the perfect place for screenshots, photos you need to move or upload somewhere else, or files that you’ll toss after you read them. The key is taking time at the end of each day to empty your delete folder
- Choose a destination (home) for things you download. Creating a digital file system (more on this later) can help you easily place files in specific places so you know where to find them later. There’s nothing worse than trying to find a screenshot on your desktop surrounded by a list of 16 other screenshots….
- Use a simple and clean desktop background that encourages you to keep less. Backgrounds with quotes, blocks for icons, or a picture of your cat —- if it means you won’t put a PDF icon over their eyes
2) Endless internet tabs because “oooo I wanna read that maybe“
There was a pivotal moment in my life where I reached the deep end of tab-topia-land. I got an error message while trying to open up another Huffpost article that said “you’ve exceeded the number of available tabs”
Mother of god what have I done?
It was in that moment that I realized that not only had I digitally hoarded my way into info-oblivion, but I also hadn’t accomplished a damn thing in hours. My mind also felt overwhelmed, distracted, and I started feeling super irritable (no, I DIDN’T watch the last episode of Homeland, John, ugh).
Keeping tabs on your tabs helps you stay focused and prevents that awful cascade of thoughts that start with “maybe I can be more productive doing THIS though…”
Tips for your tabs:
- Limit yourself to 2-3 tabs at a time at most (hey if you can manage 4, go for it, but this is what has worked for me)
- When you are tempted to read another article that you can’t possibly lose, throw it in a GoogleDoc or place where you can come back to it. Also, ask yourself, will my life really change if I read about How to Make a Frozen Strawberry Margarita WITHOUT Ice?! I mean maybe, but check yo’self.
3) Shiny FREEBIES – come to me my precious!
This is ironic considering I totes have a freebie for you at the end of this post (that’s for you to decide at the end) but it’s important to monitor how often you’re opting into online freebies, PDFs, and other downloads unless you’re okay getting lost in your inbox. I’ve always wanted to be slowly smothered by PDFs and welcome emails…
Sometimes getting excited about endless new info can serve as a way to distract ourselves from the ownership of our own issues. Dang Sarah, way to cut in deep, you don’t know me! Hear me out though. There have been so many times when I’ve seen a fitness tip or “cure” for running or the “best” recipes made with the thoughts of unicorns only to find that I a) never read them and b) prevent myself from actually taking action because I feel like I’ve totally “done something about it” by getting an email.
Your inbox is one of the most sacred places you have in your digital space. You can truly monitor what goes in there, what you send out of it, and who gets an invite in. There are even badass systems in place to block out junk. No other space is really like that online. Decide how you want that space to look and honor it.
- Keep track of your subscriptions and if they feel out of hand you can always use Unroll.me to automatically unsubscribe from all the things
- Not feeling a series of emails? Unsubscribe. It’s okay, you can always hit a website back up in the future and rejoin if you miss them!
- Create filters for your emails within your Gmail account (I’ll come back to this later on)
- Star important emails, people and even companies you love so they always show up in your inbox. Part of the joy of decluttering is making room for the things you DO love!
4) Notifications and alerts
Both on your computer and your phone to FitBits, Apple Watches, and whatever else we now have to notify us about more data, it can be incredibly hard to focus! I once had a friend tell me that I couldn’t text, email, or send her any kind of message during certain hours because she hated the alerts….newsflash…..you are in control of those! And luckily we’ve reached a time now where you really can control what’s bothering you on digital devices.
Turn off the noise of constant alerts and notifications and life just feels like a smooth slow ride of enjoyment. Think about the last time you were out in nature or went to a party and didn’t have your phone on you, it was probably a lot less stressful, at least after the FOMO wore off
Things to turn off and deactivate:
- Turn off Facebook sounds and alerts for Facebook Messenger (I seriously went months listening to *ding* all day because I sometimes have Facebook up in the background). It was so much better once I turned that off. On a desktop go to SETTINGS > NOTIFICATIONS (with the globe icon) > Click on EDIT next to “On Facebook” > Turn sound options to OFF
- If you’re an iPhone user, go into SETTINGS > NOTIFICATIONS and go through your apps and turn “Allow notifications” completely off. If there are apps you want or need to hear from, consider banners instead of alerts that disappear after a few seconds.
- If you use a Mac, click on the toggle button in the upper right hand corner of your screen, select the NOTIFICATIONS tab, scroll up and turn the DO NOT DISTURB button to ON
- Turn off Outlook or any Chrome reminder pop ups
- Set your phone to DO NOT DISTURB or SLEEP MODE
Did you find this helpful? Download my simple Ditch The Digital Clutter Checklist below to keep on your desk or remind you of how to stay clutter free during the workday!
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(This post was also turned into an episode on the Mindful Productivity Podcast. Listen here)
The end of the day hits and you feel drained. Not because you ran a marathon but because you made 1,000 decisions, wrestled over, even more, choices, and had to stay "on" around people that made you want to roll your eyes. You're not alone, you're a member of a pretty typical day for most people.
Life is pretty sweet these days with our iPhones and Netflix binges, but there's one element that drains us faster than we're aware of. That element is choice.
Even a decade ago there weren't as many shows at your fingertips, Buzzfeed articles about adorable animals calling your name, or endless flavors of potato chips, seriously.....do we really need a Sunday baked potato and onion chip? What if I bake my potatoes on Thursdays?
The point is that endless choices lead to overwhelming feelings of hesitation and self-doubt. I've experienced this first hand as I stood in front of 20+ jars of jelly and asked myself, "how can I even handle my own life if I can't decide what flavor of jelly to use on my toast?"
You're not having an existential crisis, you're just living in a time when consumerism has become so luxurious that we are flooded with choices. Maybe we shouldn't complain, right? But at the end of the day, couldn't we agree that life would be a lot easier, a lot simpler if choices weren't so vast?
I'm about to share with you 6 powerful ways to declutter your life to free up more mental energy. So you can get home and be present with your family your taco night, or your cat.
1) Make your daily choices ahead of time
We leave a LOT up to choice and it can eat away at our mental energy in microseconds throughout the day. But these babies can add up. When you already know the basic answers to your baseline choices, it becomes something that you don't have to think about, and doesn't affect your energy levels. I used to make fun of my grandma in high school for this. The woman was 82 and I got to use her 1986 Chevy Cavalier as long as I took her grocery shopping every Tuesday. She knew exactly what she liked and what she wanted. Spearmint lifesavers, never peppermint.
As much as I judged her from my 16-year-old brain, the woman was doing herself some mad favors with her flavor preferences. Now, I'm not saying you should stick to your ways and never broaden your horizons or get all grumpy about it (I don't think she ever forgave me for getting the wrong mints), but consider areas of your life that you know you like doing certain ways and be mindful of that. This allows you to go grocery shopping with ease, know what you're taking for lunch, and stick to what conditioner you use so every trip out doesn't turn into 20 extra minutes of deep contemplation about whether or not you can make the "perfect" choice.
A few ways to make this happen:
Make your lunch the night before
Stick to a bedtime during the week, how often do you play that game about how much longer you should stay up?
Make a dinner meal plan if it helps you avoid the "I dunno what you do YOU want for dinner?" conversation
Decide where things go when you get home, so you know where to find them
Write down your core staple groceries that you like and always buy more of
Decide if you already have plans for the weekend (even if those plans involve yoga pants and This is Us marathons) giving you the liberty to know your answer to many questions ahead of time
Set your workout gear out the night before (it's a lot easier to get moving if one decision is already made for you)
Pro tip: Map out your days ahead of time with the Mindful Productivity Planner
2) Stop putting up with things in your home that you hate
I don't mean to brag but I'm kind of an expert Sims player. I used to spend 6 hours at a time on my Mom's Gateway in the summer building houses and using cheat codes to make ghosts and create endless money (I'm pretty sure rosebud still works). One thing about The Sims is that the characters have little health meters for different areas of their happiness. Have them walk into a room with nice paintings and their mood would go up, turn them around into a messy kitchen and they'd get pretty moody.
We're not much different. We all have that one thing (if not more) in our homes that we've been putting up with for way too long. Maybe it's that weird scrub brush your aunt gave you for the kitchen that stars at you with those weird googly eyes every time you go to wash a pan. Maybe it's a step stool that never folds back up correctly and makes you unbelievably frustrated. Or maybe it's that piece of "art" someone gave you that just isn't doing it for you.
Newsflash. This is YOUR home and unless removing said object affects the wellbeing of someone else in your home, there's no reason you need to keep it. Find a replacement, donate things that no longer bring good vibes to the space. Ugly crap in our homes drains our mental energy. You aren't shallow for wanting to see nice things when you sit down.
3) Turn off your automatic "yes" response
My husband is so guilty of this (sorry, love). But I can be just as bad about it. Someone invites us to something, asks us for a favor, or even offers to give us something and we say, "sure! no problem! I'd love to! I'll totes be there. Yeah, I can do that." Until the moment it actually hits us later that we agreed to something.
Saying "yes" right away can feel like a good friend thing to do. We're being agreeable, helpful, positive. But when we always say yes to other people without honoring our ability and straight up right to say no, we end up saying no to ourselves and other things that matter.
Or even worse, we end up flaking on a commitment later because we never fully assessed our initial yes in the first place. By taking time to assess your yes (quite possibly a future book title right there) you are able to bring forth your authentic self and only give as much energy as you have so you can conserve the energy you need to take care of yourself. Plus, saying yes to everything always can make us really resentful of others in the long term and makes it confusing for them to know where our own boundaries are. Say no more, it's good for everyone.
4) Give that shit a home
The minute I walk in the door my keys goes on a key hook right by the door. No excuses. My wallet also always stays in my purse. That means if I grab it to make an online purchase, it doesn't take a nap on my desk, it goes straight back to where it belongs. Keeping a strict place for everyday items boosts your mental energy and keeps your sanity in check.
There's no need to run around the house searching for your keys when you're already running late. Been there. Done that. And I can tell you from firsthand experience, that when I leave the house frazzled, I drive frazzled, and I get really impatient with regular traffic that never changes anyway.
A few tips to get you started:
Make a list of things you use or take with you every day
Decide on a strict place for those things to live, this is their home space (aww you're so nice)
Keep the coffee and the filters in the same place
Put the remote back on the coffee table (I get why people use velcro sometimes)
Have a safe place for your daily water bottle
Put important items or paperwork in an inbox and outbox near the front door so you always know what to take with you
Stick a dry erase board to a place you always look at before you leave to remind yourself of anything specific for a particular day
5) Give yourself 30 minutes in the morning before you check anything on your phone
I'm still working on this one but it's one of my favorite ways to declutter and ease my mind. Rise and shine! Time to shine a bright light into your corneas and see what everyone is angry about on Facebook. Gross. Try mixing up your morning routine by abstaining from your phone first thing (it might just open up room to not abstain from something else.....oh, I went there).
A few things that happen when I do this:
Mornings become 180% less stressful (social media can really get a girl wound up, amirite?
I'm way less likely to be late - because nothing is distracting me
I have time to sit out on my deck with my cup of black coffee (truly one of life's greatest moments)
I'm more present and mindful of the intentions I want to set for the day
6) Keep an ongoing list of things you want to do when you have free time
Wrapping this all back up with my initial theme of choice, if you have a list of ideas for things to do when you have some downtime, you'll avoid the overwhelm of making a decision. Because I don't know about you, but if my decision window of "what to do with my hour of free time" is longer than 45 seconds, it can often lead to feelings of guilt for not being more productive or that dumb voice that tries to talk you out of your you time.
Ditch all of that garbage and keep a fun list in your journal so you always have ideas. Need inspiration? Here are some things on my list:
Write letters to friends
Make a crystal grid
Sew a love elephant (here's one I made a couple years ago)
Play my Nintendo DSi
Draw some mandalas
Add to my Buddha Book
Map out your Month at a Glance in your Mindful Productivity Planner
Try a new vegan recipe
Go to the library
Make some lists (50 ideas here)
Decluttering your life is so much more than how much you own. And sometimes it starts with how cluttered your mental space feels. Try out these tips and let me know how it goes. Enjoy this post? Please share it and spread the love <3